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Hooked on Happiness

A high school musical with talent and energy to burn. The next generation has their focus on living a greener existence and saving the planet.

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Spencer Martinez, Jazz Sunpanich and Hannah Weaver in a scene from Tom Attea’s new musical “Hooked on Happiness” at Theater for the New City (Photo credit: Russ Rowland

[avatar user=”James Navarrete” size=”96″ align=”left” ] James Navarette, Critic[/avatar]

Hooked on Happiness is a delightful new musical set in a high school drama class, with book and lyrics by Tom Attea, and music composed by Arthur Abrams.

We meet the high school leads, Kim, played by Hannah Carne, and Eric (Leonard W. Rose), on the beach discussing global warming and how helpless they feel about it. They also make reference to how their parents and adult role models are ignoring this overwhelming green issue.

Mark Marcante does double duty as director and set designer and captures the energy and emotions of a drama teacher and its talented students perfectly. He also does a brilliant job changing the set from beach, to classroom to performance stage. The use of the fiery and tree laden backdrop along with the disco ball that comes to life in a catchy song and dance performance is genius. Not to forget the video projector scenes that follow along the story lines and add just the right ambiance to certain moments of the show.

Leonard W. Rose and Hannah Carne in a scene from Tom Attea’s new musical “Hooked on Happiness” at Theater for the New City (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

Once back in school, Kim and Eric decide to go against the wishes of their drama teacher Ms. Carlson, played by Liz Bealko, to choose between Hello Dolly! and Our Town for their senior drama project and decide to put on their own show.

After a unanimous vote by the other students in class, and much hesitation by Ms. Carlson, for she knows there will be push back by parents, many of which are evangelicals, she gives them the green light to fire away.

From then on, it’s show time with each song addressing how global warming is hurting mother earth. There are some very catchy tunes and a variety of tempos to keep everyone entertained.

One of the best songs is “Love in an Uncertain Time” which has some very comedic and well timed moments as performed by Kim and Eric.

Spencer Martinez, Jazz Sunpanich, Liz Bealko, Hannah Weaver, Hannah Carne and Jordan Rubio in a scene from Tom Attea’s new musical “Hooked on Happiness” at Theater for the New City (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

“How Hellish Hot Does it Have to Get” is another fav, with lead vocals by Hanna Weaver and backed up by Jazz Sunpanich and Spencer Martinez. It’s a catchy number with just the right amount of teen flirtiness and girlish naughtiness.

While the spotlight was sometimes off on a few numbers, lighting designer, Alexander Bartenieff, does add the right element to every musical performance.

Bealko’s Ms. Carlson even gets into the act a couple of times as a dancing polar bear and has her own tap dance and singing number that is quite impressive on both fronts.

Costume and prop designer Lytza R. Colon supplies the perfect balance of senior high school musical costuming and props.

Hannah Carne in a scene from Tom Attea’s new musical “Hooked on Happiness” at Theater for the New City (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

The choreography by Mackenzie Surbey is original and never tedious. It blends perfectly well with the music and, of course, the personalities of each performer.

Although the show is 80 minutes without an intermission, it just breezes right by and one is never bored. The music, played by Peter Dizozza (on piano), Ralph Hamperian (on bass) and Art Lilliard (on drums), keeps the show moving at perfect tempo. From ballads to disco tune, from rap to group numbers, the music is spot on. Sound designer Alex Santullo delivers a pitch-perfect musical.

Hooked on Happiness (through December 1st, 2019)

Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-254-1109 or visit:

Running time: 80 minutes without an intermission

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

2 Comments on Hooked on Happiness

  1. Thank you, James.

    Your review of Hooked on Happiness is brilliantly done.

    It’s so refreshing to see a critic who will offer forthright praise.

  2. Carol & Harvey Baron // November 20, 2019 at 6:20 pm // Reply

    How exciting Tom. How about bringing your show to Florida …. and you with it. Congratulations.
    Carol and Harvey Baron

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